Reviewby Theron Martin,
The Seven Deadly Sins
Episodes 1-24 Streaming
Ten years ago the mightiest knights of the land of Brittania, known as the Seven Deadly Sins, were implicated in the death of the Grandmaster of the Holy Knights of Liones and an ultimately-unsuccessful plot to overthrow the King of Liones. Since that time, though, the magically-powerful Holy Knights seem to have lost their way. Their actions are now oppressive and even abusive, and unbeknownst to most, their leaders have overthrown the king themselves. Third Princess Elizabeth escapes them and, using a suit of armor, goes on a quest to find the one group powerful enough to oppose the Holy Knights: the Seven Deadly Sins, who may or may not still be alive but whose wanted posters have been continuously displayed over the past decade. She collapses in the Boar's Hat Tavern, where she soon discovers that its diminutive, seemingly-young owner is actually Melodias, the Dragon Sin of Wrath and renowned captain of the Seven Deadly Sins. Melodias had already been thinking about rounding up the comrades who had scattered to the winds in the wake of the incident ten years ago, so he and his talking pig/Captain of Scraps Disposal Hawk agree to accompany and help Elizabeth in her quest to find the others and deal with the traitorous Holy Knights. As the group gradually comes together, old loves and animosities resurface and the ugly undertones of what the current leadership of the Holy Knights is secretly doing become evident.
The Seven Deadly Sins (hereafter SDS) is the latest and most successful manga by Nakaba Suzuki, who has been active on one shonen title or another since the late '90s. This 24 episode anime adaptation is the first anime based on one of his works and definitely won't be the last; a sequel series, due out sometime in 2016, has already been confirmed, which probably assures that any future work by him will also get a serious look for a possible adaptation. The anime version comes to the screen via an A-1 Pictures team under the direction of Tensai Okamura, the director of Blue Exorcist and the creator and director of Darker than Black, and he shows clearly that he has not lost his touch at directing super-powered action content in such a way that it remains involving while still displaying a good deal of character development.
That being said, the series does get off to a slow and unremarkable start. The first few episodes are pretty generic shonen action “gather the gang” fare, with the only significant twist being that the giant-sized Diane turns out to be an actual giant and not just a transformed human. (Her height is given at 30 feet at one point, though she apparently claims that she is only 29 feet.) Very little that the series does during this run even suggests that the series might get much better, but it does. The turning point comes in episode 7, where some flashbacks to the past of Ban, the unkillable cool guy who is the Fox Sin of Greed, reveal a past relationship which establishes how he got his immortality and where his true motives lie. This, too, seems like a typical flashback at first, but his interactions with Elaine click surprisingly strongly on an emotional level, something which so many of these kinds of scenes in shonen action series attempt but fail to achieve to this degree. In an additional surprise, later revelations show that what seemed like a one-shot flashback had consequences well beyond just Ban and King, a fellow Sin who also had a connection to Elaine. This is not the only time where flashbacks into the pasts of key characters turn up unexpected quality, either, although the series' track record on that is hardly perfect.
The overall quality of the storytelling increases significantly in the second half, where the bigger plots and multilayered motives of some characters become apparent. The fights also get bigger and huge new twists land, though one of the best stories is once again a flashback, one which looks at a common past between King and Diane (which she may not remember) which explains why he's in love with her. Hampering these improvements are some twists and reversals of character allegiance which get handled in a clunky fashion The big developments towards the end involving the chief bad guy and the hidden power of one character are hardly anything original, either; experienced anime fans should see both coming several episodes earlier. Harder to classify is the odd appearance and involvement of one other character who pops up unheralded in the late stages. Still, an anime can get away with a lot when it has healthy doses of high-level super-powered battles, and this series will never be found wanting on that front even if the relative power levels of some characters bounce all over the place.
The other big plus for the series is a balanced and likable cast which contains some common archetypes (especially among the main villains) but is far from a slave to them. Elizabeth is probably the most typical as the princess who may not be a princess by blood (references to her being adopted get tossed around, but why she was adopted is never explained). She cannot do anything on her own but serves as the ensemble's heart and motive force, a role that the Seven Deadly Sins apparently did not have back when they were all together. The writing attempts to portray Meliodas as perpetually calm, nonchalant, and difficult to truly anger, but as often as not his cheery demeanor comes off as annoying. A better balance is found with Diane, who retains both the girliness of a young woman and the fierceness of a warrior giant, and with Ban, the cool, relaxed guy who gives off a somewhat evil vibe but is nowhere near the depraved, heartless character that he intimates to be. King is also a more complex character, with an air of aloofness which can slip away quite easily when he gets emotional, while Gowther (when he finally gets introduced early in the second half) is the true oddball, a male character who combines an utter lack of emotion and social skills with great analytical capability and combat acumen – in other words, a character type much more commonly seen in female Rei Ayanami rip-offs. And then there's Hawk, the talking pig (the running joke is that everyone is flummoxed by his ability to talk when they first encounter him), who at first seems to be merely a comic relief character but shows over the course of time that he is remarkably reliable in a pinch. (One of the other two Sins also shows up late but has only brief appearances.) The interactions between them are entertaining, enjoyable, and go at least a little beyond the typical drivel which too often weights down shonen series. Harder to take are some of the opposition characters, especially Guila, who is a real piece of work and whose business side does not jive well with her familial side (the effect is akin to what Bols in Akame ga Kill! might have been like had he been played straight), or Jericho, who perpetually feels out of place and mishandled.
A-1 Pictures' production of the artistry gives the series a semi-cartoonish look and feel, the kind of thing that you might expect of a series which skews a bit younger. SDS is anything but a kiddie show, though, as the graphic violence can get very intense and occasional scenes of Melodias sexually harassing Elizabeth do pop up. (Abnormally, she seems unfazed by it, which is refreshingly different in one sense but also makes some attempts seem painfully awkward.) The series has a pronounced penchant for kooky Holy Knight designs, to a degree that would make just about any action series short of One Piece pale by comparison. Many looked ridiculous, but occasionally a cool one (like the teleporting female knight who wore a mask which looked like a pair of hands grasping a face from the top and bottom) might deliver a disconcerting feel. Both and male and female designs beyond the Knights offered a lot of variety, while background art is fairly typical European medieval-based fantasy fare. The animation is nothing exceptional but good enough to deliver on several engaging, high-powered battle sequences. Other than the aforementioned sexual harassment, fan service elements are minimal and mild.
The real production treat for the series is the musical score. Though the symphonic-based score is good throughout, it kicks up a notch in the second half as it plays up the more moody and dramatic action very well, though it also does a good job with the more sentimental parts, too. Both openers used are solid, energetic songs and both of the milder-toned closers hold their own, too; the change happens at the season break.
As a “Netflix Original Series” (and at the time of this writing that is the only place it can be accessed), SDS sports an English dub courtesy of Bang Zoom! Entertainment. Unless you're tired of hearing Bryce Papenbrook as the male lead in seemingly everything these days (he's become in the 2010s what Johnny Yong Bosch was earlier in the 2000s), the English cast is very well-chosen. Highlight performancess include Cristina Vee as the pig Hawk, Ben Diskin (Sai in Naruto Shippuden, Death Gun in Sword Art Online 2) as Ban, and Max Mittelman (Inaho in Aldnoah.Zero) as King, but really, even down to bit performances one would be hard-pressed to find even a mediocre delivery. Curiously, no effort was made to pitch Diane's voice lower; she sounds just like a human-sized character despite being nearly five times as tall and probably close to a hundred times the weight of any non-demonic entity in the series. Also curiously, the Japanese pronunciation for Diane was retained; she is uniformly called “dee-ane” rather than the more standard Western pronunciation “di-ane.”
Though SDS's first series ends with a definitive wrap to its major immediate plot line, it still leaves several loose ends, such as the full truth behind Elizabeth's nature and purpose; what, exactly, Meliodas is and why a certain very powerful being was willing to bring someone back from the dead in exchange for seeing him offed; and where the seventh of the Deadly Sins is. With a second series coming, though, those not being explained are less flaws and more enticements to continue when the franchise resumes. Overall, the first series has enough flaws to keep it from getting a high-level rating but has enough merits and entertainment value to still get a good one.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : A-
+ Musical score, some unexpectedly strong character development, involving battle scenes.
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